Washington State University Tri-Cities

Student Union Building

Aerial study of proposed student union building Interior study of proposed student union building

Imagine the Possibilities

of a Washington State University Tri-Cities Student Union Building

Sept. 19, 2014

The votes are in!

Washington State University Tri-Cities students went to the polls Sept. 16–18. The results are in: 79% have approved the $100 fee for a new student union building. For more about the election results, go to wsucougarnews.com.

Many Cougs, one story. Imagine a building that encompassed that tale. This is our opportunity to expand the WSU Tri-Cities experience by creating a community with the campus’ first building solely designed around the student experience.

Below are just a few of our campus’ issues identified thanks to student input, along with explanations of how a WSU Tri-Cities Student Union could address them. While these don’t reflect all the issues we face on our campus, we can make this WSU Tri‑Cities student union building a reality with your help.

The Call for a WSU Tri-Cities Student Union and Feasibility

During the Spring 2014 student general election, the ballot included a referendum where 74% of the students officially expressed the need for a student union building on campus. In 2011, 76% of the students indicated that they would use a student union two or more times a week and a majority of the students supported a $100 fee per semester for a student union building. In 2012, WSU Tri-Cities completed a favorable feasibility study that outlined the construction of a 6,000-square-foot facility to meet the growing needs of the students.

Student Activities and Venue Space

Areas designated for student activities on the WSU Tri-Cities campus are severely limited, especially for larger activities. Students are often crowded into tight spaces during student-sponsored events including annual barbecues, concerts, and student debates. The university is extremely restricted in what areas students can use for their events and capacity is quite limited. Spaces that are provided for student events often overlap with quiet study areas, thus creating an unhappy student populace which divides students. While there are certain rooms reserved for studying during Dead Week and Finals Week, the lack of space year-around is problematic.

The student union building would address the issues of population and campus growth by incorporating additional large rooms for meetings or events, which also can be used as bonus student lounges when not reserved. Furthermore, smaller room spaces could be incorporated to address the issue of the lack of study spaces across campus. These smaller areas would promote students to stay on campus while conveniently located to enhanced student services.

Student Services Centralization

WSU Tri-Cities’ campus offers a variety of excellent student services, but because of their scattered nature around campus, it makes it more difficult for students to utilize these offices and for the offices to collaborate.

Creating a “one-stop” centralized location for students to receive the help they need would create a more intuitive and stress-free process for students to attain services. This also would allow easy referral processes between offices and create more unity between staff, professors, and students alike. A new Student Union building would provide a venue for such offices to be established in such a location that would harmonize well with the student activities housed there as well.

Entertainment Options

A new student union building would not only foster academic productivity, but be a hub for a variety of entertainment options. These would include additional and larger performance spaces to house student functions. This venue would offer an appropriate on-campus setting for students to gather to watch professional sport events with friends and, more importantly, Cougar games! The student union building would offer a unique destination for student life and be more than a place to simply pass time between classes.


A new building can also offer a larger university-like feel with the opportunity to re-think how we present our food service. This could facilitate a more comfortable and enjoyable atmosphere for students looking to unwind between classes or to catch up with peers. For example, a small café or coffee shop with spacious seating and design not only would further enhance the new building, but could be an asset in promoting student engagement. Student performers could take the stage, an avenue that would enhance student dynamics on campus.

Organization and Meeting Space

As the WSU Tri-Cities campus grows, so do organization membership on campus. Student organizations require space to meet with their members, but the campus does not have enough meeting rooms to house organizations that meet frequently. Often, student leaders have to request rooms several weeks in advance to guarantee they will have somewhere to meet without disrupting other students or staff members. Organizations also face a lack of student storage. Items such as banners, decoration, and student swag are often crammed into small spaces or student groups share storage rooms, causing disorganization and sometimes even hostility between groups.

With the addition of a new student union building, rooms of various sizes can be open for student organization usage, which could create an environment that enhances productivity and higher levels of programming for the WSU Tri-Cities populace. Additional space also equates to the elimination of multiple groups sharing storage space, a win-win for everyone!

Making A WSU Tri-Cities Student Union a Reality

Pre-design cost estimates for a student union building is approximately $6 million depending on the specification of services located in the facility. The amount that would need to be funded from a new fee is less than the total cost based on previous commitments. The university is gifting a property in North Richland that is up for sale and appraised at $1.3 million. The Student and Activities Facilities Committee has also earmarked $1.4 million for the project.

Since $2.7 million is already earmarked for the project, that means that approximately only $3.3 million is needed to construct a building. On September 16 and 17, the ASWUSTC students will be voting on the critical step of a $100-per-semester student union fee to go toward the construction of the new student union building. The fee will not go into effect until the North Richland property has been sold. The fee will also serve as on ongoing funding source for maintenance of the facility and expansion opportunities like a student recreation facility.

Fees Compared to Other Campuses

WSU Tri-Cities’ mandatory fees are currently the lowest in the WSU system. The Pullman fees go toward paying for services such as their student union building, campus recreation center, student health, and transit services. Approval of the WSU Tri-Cities student union fee would mean that WSU Tri-Cities students would pay only $16 more a year than Spokane students in addition to showing a commitment to building a student community.

2014-15 Mandatory Fee Rates

Tri-Cities Fees with the Student Union Fee $712.00

Next Steps

Because we want this to be a student center designed specifically to meet the diverse needs of the entire University population, your input is incredibly important. Once the vote is approved, a student union advisory committee will be established to provide input through the design/build phases of the project in addition to long-term governance of the facility. There will also be multiple individual opportunities to provide feedback during the project. Once there is a successful referendum and land sale, the student union project will require WSU Board of Regents approval. Groundbreaking typically can commence 18 months after final approval.

What our students are saying

The student union building is a must for student success here at WSU Tri-Cities. With it, we can go away from the divided student lounges causing the campus to have more centralized student involvement.

—Tyler Stark,
Veteran Student Ambassador,
Management Information Systems

As our student body grows and our programs become more enriched, the need for a Student Union Building is becoming more evident. Life on campus extends beyond academic pursuits and a central hub that is designed to allow students to meet, relax, and express themselves is an essential next step to promoting a complete university experience.

—Geoff Schramm,
AIP Internship Coordinator

The lack of space for students to stay involved, facilitate personal growth, encourage unity, and make connections with other students limits the potential and creativity of our students becoming leaders outside of the classroom. A student union building inspires student engagement, student life, and a better overall experience to our campus community.

Román Lara, Student Ambassador

Questions? Comments?

Rigo Leon
ASWSUTC President

Allison Rodgers
Student Involvement Supervisor

Chris Meiers
Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management and Student Services

Perspective Study for proposed student union building Student Services, 2710 Crimson Way, Washington State University Tri-Cities, Richland WA 99354-1671
509-372-7358, Contact Us